Monday, May 25, 2015

“Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own”

I haven’t written here lately because my family and I travelled to Europe for a couple of weeks on a long-planned trip. While there, we attended some special commemorations.

Celebrating Liberation Day:
Jim Summersides, Wageningen, 5 May 2015
On May 5, we travelled to Wageningen, where 70 years before German General Blaskowitz surrendered to Canadian General Foulkes, officially ending the war in the Netherlands.

Each year on this Liberation Day, Wageningen hosts a huge festival and parade. Being the 70th Anniversary, the parade this year included hundreds of Allied veteran soldiers (including 70 World War II vets from Canada), marching bands from varies Allied nations (including the Burlington Teen Tour Band), and current troops and cadets. Thousands and thousands lined the parade route – at least five or six people deep – and cheered and applauded each of the veterans driven by in vintage vehicles.

We knew that among those Canadian veterans was Jim Summersides, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 613 in Fonthill. It wasn’t easy finding him from among the hundreds of vets sheltered under several structural tents at the parade-start. Finally, we found him being led to one of the parade’s jeeps; you see, Summersides wasn’t with the others was because he was among eight veterans speaking with our Prime Minister. (You may recall that American Congressional leaders awarded Summersides and 41 other Canadians with the Congressional Gold Medal on February 3 for their service and determination in the first Joint Canadian-American Special Forces unit.)

Full Honours:
The next day, on our way to Belgium, we specifically travelled to the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen-op-Zoom. We arrived just as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian government, and family, laid the remains of Private Albert Laubenstein from Saskatoon to rest. While serving with the Lincoln & Welland Regiment, Pte. Laubenstein was killed during the Battle of Kapelsche Veer on Jan. 26, 1945. While Laubenstein’s body was interred in a battlefield grave, during the chaos at the end-of-the war, his grave was lost. His remains were discovered in 2014. Now he was buried with full honours with fellow members of his regiment near a large monument that reads “Their Name Liveth For Evermore.”

What Is Freedom?
Two huge banners surrounded one of the three Wageningen music stages on Liberation Day. Loosely translated, one banner read “Freedom Is Something We Celebrate Together!” The other: “Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own.” My family and I will remember both poignant statements whenever we recall our special trip and commemorate our veterans.